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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

Tailgating Tips

It’s the time of the year that portable grills roll out of the back of SUVs and into parking lots for football and tailgating season! Every year, I take on the task of blogging on ways to eat healthy during these celebrations. I’m also always reminded that tailgating has changed A LOT since my college days when we threw a tattered blanket on a patch of grass and opened up the tubs of Tupperware.

Rise and Shine

For those who want to secure a good tailgating spot, that means getting to the parking lot early. That means that game day is kicking off with a hearty breakfast but let’s try and keep it healthy! Eggs, bacon, and sausages are fan favorites, but can be loaded with fat. Try subbing turkey maple sausage links or turkey bacon instead of higher fat, pork products. Hash brown potatoes can be prepped the day before and thrown onto a griddle pan to reheat. Mini quiches (in their disposable foil tins) are also easily warmed up on top of the hot grill. Baked beans are another easy side, and are full of fiber and protein. And in the spirit of the fall season, serve up some pumpkin-walnut muffins with a cup of spiced coffee or tea.

Appetizer Warm Up:

Maybe it’s the chill in the fall air (at least in New England), but hot, spicy foods go hand-in-hand with football. Buffalo chicken dip is another fan favorite; serve it up with baked pita chips or celery and carrot sticks. Seven-layer Mexican dip is popular but use a low fat sour cream, and serve with baked tortilla chips to slice calories from fat in half. An antipasto plate is always a hit but it can add up in fat calories. For smaller crowds, thread some mozzarella balls, prosciutto, jumbo olives, and cherry tomatoes on wooden skewers for an easy grab and go.

Winning Main Fare:

The tailgating menu has its all-time favorites: hotdogs and hamburgers, but consider substituting the beef with turkey or using 93% lean beef burgers. And don't forget the veggie burgers for the vegetarians in the group! Adding salsa to the ground turkey meat not only adds zest, but it also keeps the burgers moist. Serve with caramelized onions and peppers on the side.

Pulled-pork sliders are low in fat if you use the right cut of meat. Cook a tenderloin in a crockpot with BBQ sauce and let it simmer all day long. The long cooking cycle will tenderize the meat and it can easily be shredded. Prepping foods a day or two ahead allows the added ingredients to savor.

And what would a tailgate be without a crock of hot chili? Instead of serving it with chips or nachos, impress your fellow fans with a nutrition-packed baked potato bar and let them top away! Did you know that one baked potato provides more than 900 mg of potassium and 3.5 grams of fiber? That’s as much potassium as in two bananas! Pre-bake potatoes and cut in half, lengthwise. Reheat them on the skillet (skin side up). Offer a variety of nutritious toppings like diced ham, shredded chicken, low fat cheese, black beans, guacamole, salsa, tabbouleh, and chickpeas, Your guests will have plenty to choose from at this potato-palooza bar!

Side Lines:

Salads can be pre-portioned in large, clear cups with lids and packed on ice in a cooler. Give your guests a few salad dressing options, but be sure you include an olive oil-based Italian. Cabbage coleslaw dressed with apple cider vinegar versus lots of mayonnaise will temper the warmer temperature if the sun is out.

End Zone Desserts:

With all of the preparation needed for the main fare, cookies and brownies are the easiest to pack and are always crowd pleasers. To make the brownies more festive looking, decorate them with white icing to resemble the laces on a football. And don’t forget the fruit! Crisp apples are plentiful at this time of the year. Mix up a variety of colors and serve them in an apple-picking basket.


Nothing says fall better than a cup of apple cider. Yum, and it smells so good! Alcohol will be flowing, so make sure you drink sensibly and remain hydrated.

Enjoy the game….Go Patriots!!


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